For those who carry a bookshelf with them on-the-go, Amazon releases a variety of e-books monthly for $3.99 or less. I’m here to discover narratives written by female authors and let you know if they’re worth storing on your virtual bookshelf.
Before reading Spill Simmer Falter Wither, I read the publishers conversation with Sara Baume to familiarize myself with the novelist and her inspiration for the novel. When asked about the characterization of her 57-year-old protagonist, she simply describes him as “strange,” an ambiguous yet intriguing trait that naturally caught my attention. Regarding the relationship of a paranoid, anti-social, reclusive man and his adopted dog, the novel tells a story about abandonment through personification and zoomorphism, two literary techniques that fuse the protagonist and his dog into one character with one common experience.
The novel begins in the spring when 57-year-old Ray is no longer a stray, found by a one-eyed ratter whom Ray doesn’t use for ratting. Instead, Ray finds himself associating with the abandoned animal in ways that teach him about himself, the abandonment in which he feels by others, and his own self-abandonment. Through summer, fall, and well into the frigid and lonely air of winter, Ray and One Eye live existentially in routine familiarity until they take off unexpectedly, finally unleashed. Told in first and second person, Ray contemplates his existence by rambling to One Eye, travelling with One Eye, seeing through One Eye, and observing One Eye observe himself. More often than not, Ray speaks directly to (and only to) One Eye not because the animal can understand him, but because One Eye confirms his being in ways that his position as a visible outsider cannot account for, though this acknowledgment happens to be countered with a constant “too lateness” – a pattern that haunts the direction and temporality of the novel. With a troubled childhood half asleep in memory, Ray’s familial relationships are naturally awakened with his ownership of One Eye in ways that are difficult to admit. Just as aggressive behaviour of typically composed breeds have at times been argued to be the result of poor owners, Ray reveals how his unconventional behaviour is likely the outcome of the poor relationship with his father. Though there are times, especially in the spring in summer, when Ray seems to be content, there is a sense of irrevocable damage – described as a smog that “takes the sheen off everything” – that Ray, with the help of One Eye, cannot run away from.
Though a perfect read for dog owners, the story is powerfully heart-wrenching. In sadness, Ray and One Eye relate, support, and find comfort in each other for one another as Baume effortlessly unites both species through the reality of life’s maltreatment. And while Baume’s language is considered lyrical and rhythmic, the sentences are repetitious because Ray is fatigued from stasis and paralyzed by “so much reversing to make a straight line.”
I downloaded Spill Simmer Falter Wither for $2.28 on Amazon, and it looks like it’ll have a forever home on my Kindle reader. With a 4.7 star rating, readers and reviewers alike have applauded Baume for her riveting poetic prose. Currently, the e-book is available for $2.34.